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Iran Democracy Monitor - No. 146

Edited by Ilan Berman and Daniel Lee
April 3, 2014

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani may be a diplomatic darling of the West, where negotiations with his government over the regime’s nuclear program are still ongoing. But Rouhani is decidedly less popular among some factions within the Islamic Republic. One such disgruntled political force is the regime’s clerical army, the Revolutionary Guards. In a recent editorial on the IRGC’s news mouthpiece, Javan, General Yadollah Javani—who serves as an advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative to the Guards—lashed out publicly at Rouhani for his engagement with the West, questioning the new president’s commitment to the revolutionary spirit of the Islamic Republic. “Reforms are a Quranic and religious concept but we saw how the flag-bearer of this movement turned it into relegating ayatollah Khomeini to history books, distancing (people) from clerical rule, rapprochement with America, acceptance of Western notions of human rights, etcetera,” Javani has written. (Tehran Rooz, March 6, 2014)


Over the past three years, Iran and one of its historic terrorist proxies—the Palestinian Hamas movement—have largely broken up over Tehran’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Recently, however, relations between Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Hamas have been headed back toward business as usual. In that vein, Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani has announced that Tehran is poised to resume financial support for Hamas. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is also reportedly planning to receive Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Tehran in the near future. The thaw appears to be the result of recent negotiations between Hamas and Iranian proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon—talks which, while failing to bridge differences over Syria, did establish a modus vivendi in which Hamas will again garner Iranian support. (Al-Monitor, March 24, 2014)


Driven by surging global demand, sales of Iranian crude have exceeded allowable export limits under sanctions levied against the Islamic Republic. The sanctions regime currently in place is supposed to hold Iranian exports to an average of 1 million barrels per day until July 20th, when the six-month “interim deal” hammered out last fall between Iran and the P5+1 powers in Geneva expires. A large part of the reason can be found in Asia, where a number of countries have taken advantage of loosening international sanctions to step up their oil imports from Iran. On average, Asian consumers are importing 200,000 more barrels per day than they were a year ago. China, for example, has expanded its importation of Iranian crude by six percent, and took in 552,000 barrels daily in February. South Korea, meanwhile, has doubled its imports, to over 290,000 barrels per day. And Japanese imports rose 21.7 percent in February, to 260,820 barrels daily. (Reuters, March 26, 2014; Tehran FARS, March 31, 2014)


Iran’s quiet subversion in Yemen is drawing the ire of officials in Sana’a. Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi has publicly called for Tehran to stop its support for both the Houthi rebels active in the country’s north and separatists in Yemen’s south. Tehran has officially denied any interference in Yemen’s internal politics, but last year Yemeni authorities intercepted an Iranian ship which was attempting to smuggle weaponry into the southern Gulf state. (Albawaba, March 31, 2014)


Officially, sanctions relief stemming from the November 2013 Geneva deal is limited to just a handful of industries (aircraft, car parts and petrochemicals). But even this loosening of restrictions has whetted the appetite of Western companies eager to engage Iranian businesses, and more than a few are now seeking to make inroads in the cash-strapped Iranian economy.

U.S. officials have sought to inject caution into this market calculus, with President Obama warning that businesses exploring the Iranian market “do so at their own peril right now.” Iranian officials, for their part, are sending the opposite message. Deputy Iranian Oil Minister Mansour Moazami has warned that companies which remain absent from the Iranian market will incur considerable opportunity costs. “For the latecomers, the opportunity will be lost,” Moazami has said. “We won’t wait forever.” (Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2014)

Related Categories: Terrorism; Radical Islam; Iran Freedom Initiative; Iran

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